The Many Times Latin America Treated Me Differently Just Because I Am A Woman
The more I stay here, the more I understand my feministic level of thinking. And I hate it. I hate that I have to be angry, to be uncomfortable, to be irritated. I hate that I have to argue, to debate on gender equality, to prove a point. I hate experiencing all these because it is common knowledge that men and women are created equal and that no one should look at me differently just because I am a woman.
But that’s not the case here.
I have been warned a lot of times – Latin America is a macho continent. Women don’t have much voice here because machismo is part of a culture. Believe it or not, the majority of my Latin friends are men and when I tell them they are machistas, they deny it to death. It’s pretty noticeable even in casual conversations. They are probably used to it so they don’t consider labeling it as gender discrimination.
I was supposed to teach English in a city in Peru. Like stay long-term and earn big bucks for my upcoming Central American trip. I already said yes to a co-teacher but backed out the minute she told me I should pretend I have a boyfriend to fit in. If I say I don’t have a boyfriend, people will question what I am doing here alone. I’ve been told they will ask why I am not married nor have a boyfriend. They will also interrogate you if you have plans on looking for a man in that particular city.
THAT IS RIDICULOUS.
And so, I quit. I know it’s bad to quit last minute when everything’s been arranged but I cannot be in a situation where I have to identify myself with a man just to get a teaching job that pays pretty fair. I don’t care about the money and I probably never will. I care more about my dignity and how I feel. I will never ever force myself to be happy and comfortable just because I will be earning a lot of cash. And I hope you won’t do that too.
One sunny afternoon in Colombia, I heard the boys (my co-workers) are organizing a friendly football game for the hostel staff. I came out of nowhere and said, “Yes, that’s a great idea! I’d like to play too.” I’ve been playing football since I was 14 and though I am not the best player, I certainly believe that I can be in the same wavelength (game-wise) with the boys. Unfortunately, they said only boys are allowed to play. As usual, I started preaching with what I know about feminism and even started cursing at the boys. In the end, they still didn’t allow me to join the game.
At the bar I am working in La Paz, while I was busy preparing for a long night at work, a local came in and started asking my co-worker things. But here’s the deal: my mate at work doesn’t speak Spanish so for him, this guy is just mumbling. I interrupted and asked politely, in Spanish,
“What can I help you with? I can speak Spanish and my mate here doesn’t understand any word that’s coming out of your mouth.”
He responded and told me,
“Woman, I am not talking to you. I am talking to your friend so shut up.”
My mouth gaped open and if I was working that night, I could’ve punched him. With so much vein-controlling and the great challenge of not shouting in public, I asked him (politely) to step out and that there is no room for disrespect in my work place. If you come here, at my bar, with disrespect, you are not welcome and you probably won’t be. Ever. I don’t even know the reason why he wouldn’t talk to me when in fact I was just offering help.
One drinking night, I got pretty drunk in a discoteque in Ecuador so I went to get some water at the bar. It’s my trick to keep me normal and sober. Even if I am pretty drunk, I am aware of the things happening around me and I never went with anyone I don’t personally know. While waiting for the water, a dude suddenly put his hands inside my skirt, up to my thighs, close to my underwear line. You know what I did? I smashed a bottle of beer on his face and up until today, I cannot believe I did that. Instinct.
I am not a bad person and I never meant to hurt anyone but if you wrong me, you will definitely get 10 times of the bad things. The guy was pretty smashed (drunk) as hell and started shouting when he realized he’s bleeding. The police came. We were required to tell the story and to fill out some police report shit. However, he won. They did not arrest him and they were asking me to pay for damage “fees.” They said I look really provocative and that I am wearing something inappropriate so I should expect things like that to happen to me. Seriously? Srsly? You can’t be fucking serious.
Well, as usual, I started shouting (alcohol’s fault) and said I will never pay for damage because he deserved that. The idiot called it quits and didn’t file a complaint on what I did to him. It only proves that he’s a freaking bastard and he knows I am right. He knows what he did. He just didn’t want to explain it so he dropped it.
Let me just state this clear: I am a feminist but I definitely don’t hate men. Most men would ask me,
“what did we do to you that you hold a strong grudge against us?”
Believe me, I don’t hate men and it’s sad that being a feminist is often correlated with man hating. Being a feminist simply means that I (we) want equal rights as men. As simple as that. Do not call me a man-hater or a hormonal bitch just because I am proving a point. I am trying to educate you about the old school way of thinking you have on women and I deserve to be heard. I don’t know how long can I take this as I still have another year of journeying Central America but this has to stop.
And I strongly believe that not only women should fight for gender equality. Men should be involved too.
Are you a man/dude/guy/boy? Did a woman change your life or helped you cope with a crisis? What can you say about your strong-willed sisters, your valiant mother and your fearless aunts? Do you want to express your thoughts on gender equality? If yes, send me an e-mail at [email protected] and I will publish your point of view here on my blog.